Youth diplomacy, and its fostering by organizations such as the United Nations, has seen an uptick in its activity in the 21st century. Encouraging young people to express their voices through diplomacy gives their generation an opportunity to make an imprint on issues that have significant effects on their lives. Youth diplomacy can be defined as the participation of individuals from the ages 15-24 years (as recognized by the UN) in activities that promote interests of young people and seek to catalyze positive change in global issues that often transcend borders.

One of the countries which has played a notable role in this field is Indonesia. There are currently over 75 million individuals belonging to the ‘Generation Z’ group (born from late 1990s onwards) in Indonesia– the largest cohort of young people that the country has ever embraced. Young Indonesians are increasingly mobilizing and impacting social policy dialogue within their communities as well as at the global level.

Established by the Indonesian Delegation for the Group of 20 (G20) Summit in 2010, the Indonesia Youth Diplomacy (IYD) programme has served as an education hub for youth who are interested in learning about diplomacy in action. With the upcoming 2022 G20 Heads of State and Government Summit taking place in Bali, Indonesia in November, IYD has been chosen to lead the Y20 Summit, which in its part starts in July before the G20 Summit.

The Y20 serves as a forum in which young leaders from G20 member countries come together to discuss and exchange ideas about the agenda of the G20 Presidency. The participants are encouraged to develop policy solutions to current global challenges, which are manifested in the Y20 communiqué, consisting of a set of recommendations that are then sent to the G20 Presidency for consideration. Last year’s communiqué included dozens of recommendations encompassing key themes such as vaccine equity, future of work, equal opportunities and sustainability.

Angelo Wijaya, currently the Head of Project Management for this year’s Y20 organizing committee, vividly remembers his experience participating as an Indonesian delegate in the 2021 Y20 Summit hosted by Italy. Representing the voices of young people in Indonesia, Angelo took part in a series of negotiations between participating countries, gaining valuable knowledge on how to navigate communications between the different governmental bodies that formulate Indonesia’s foreign policy. During the summit, Angelo initiated several bilateral meetings that included 14 other delegations, which allowed the delegates to gauge each other’s areas of interest and establish rapport with each other, while learning about other cultures and points of view.

Now, it is time for him to give back. As an organizer for this year’s Y20 Summit, Angelo’s focus is directed to planning a successful summit in July ahead of the G20. Angelo feels that “young people can add flavor to negotiations” in the international sphere. Whereas it may take time for governments and formal diplomatic entities to make substantial decisions and to act on them, “young people have more forward-thinking goals to advocate”. Young diplomats in Indonesia are playing an important role in fueling support for progressive issues that are outward-looking.

Angelo is not alone. Gracia Paramitha, a current Co-Chair of Y20 Indonesia, also serves as an environmental and climate analyst for the G20 Indonesia Presidency. After participating as a delegate in the Y8 Summit, a similar initiative for youth held in line with the Group of 8 (G8) Summit in 2013, she along with her co-delegates founded the IYD organization in December of the same year, making it the official engagement group to the G20 Summit. Their aim has been to establish a “practical pathway for all Indonesian youth to know more, develop their skills, and share their thoughts about global issues”. IYD has since served as a valuable platform for young people to become educated on diplomatic processes through workshops, seminars and training. An example of events organized the organization is the “Meet the Diplomats” session, which lets young Indonesians interact with both Indonesian and foreign diplomats.

Aside from Angelo and Gracia, alumni of the youth delegation in Indonesia have gone on to find a career related to diplomacy in a wide array of organizations including the United Nations and the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Gracia sees Indonesia’s presidency at this year’s G20 Summit 2022 as a valuable opportunity in which IYD can expand its international network of collaborators, including international organizations and governmental institutions.  She hopes that the event will “empower and expose all Indonesian youth voices both at the national and international level”.